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A Guide to Social Media Case Studies

I’m pretty sure that I don’t have to tell you how important marketing in social media has become to businesses. I believe that EVERY business, regardless of what vertical they operate in, can benefit from social media. Yet, there are many old school, traditional companies that are either not engaging in social media, or doing it wrong. Why, you ask?

Well, social media requires that you give up some of the control. Can you imagine how difficult it must be for people, say in their 50s and 60s, and in charge of a multi-national company with a brand identity that the company has controlled for decades (or maybe even HUNDREDS of years), giving up that control and letting the world at large actively drive that conversation about what the brand is? Also, put yourself in their shoes; if you are my age, then you’ll remember life before email and how difficult that transition was. These folks have made a leap from typewriters, to computers, then email and NOW you want them to swallow and embrace this newfangled social media thing? If you can’t wrap your mind around that, think back just a few years to how difficult it was to get large corporations to buy into search, both paid and organic. Well, social media is the new search.

I’ve worked for a large, multi-national company (that shall remain nameless) for the last two years. My role is responsible for testing and implementing new and emerging media technologies. In order to make that happen, I’ve had to become an evangelist, boning up on best practices, finding case studies and sharing information to convince leadership that social media has value for the company. As part of that process, I’ve learned a few key things that you might be familiar with if you work in a similar role for a large, multi-national too.

  1. Social media is a paradigm shift – TV, radio, print, even paid search, the company gets that. Tweeting? Facebooking? Forget about it! Unfamiliarity breeds skepticism.
  2. Project management processes built for offline or traditional marketing; it’s difficult to anticipate in May 2010, what you the new and emerging media that you will need funded the ENTIRE year in 2011.
  3. Speed-to-market; if it takes 6 – 9 months to select an agency, develop a strategy and put it in market, there have been so many changes, that the strategy is no longer valid (and forget adjusting on the fly – that’s NOT happening!)
  4. Budgets are determined the previous year; often, in order to fund the efforts, money has to be taken from another program. In order to do that, you MUST prove that you will drive more revenue for the company using the funding for social media. But social media is NOT primarily about the sales – it’s about the ENGAGEMENT with the brand.

Now, this isn’t to say that my company hasn’t had some success with social media. We just ran a viral video campaign to support a product launch that was really successful. It included blogger outreach, video optimization for Google SEO and YouTube and really allowed us to extend the reach of our campaign on a limited budget. Although it took 18 months and a huge product launch to win approval to launch the campaign, it drove a dramatic shift in perception for social media within the company. Since launching the campaign, we’ve presented for a variety of internal stakeholders and higher level executives to highlight our successes and communicate the value of social media. Are we all the way there yet? No, but I’m confident that we are a lot closer than we were when I started.

Enough about me and my company, let’s look at some social media case studies. First, let’s start with the bad. One company’s recent social media failure is top of mind because it’s so recent. Nestle’s Facebook page recently had a huge PR nightmare blow-up on their page because they mismanaged the response. An environmental group, Greenpeace, posted negative comments on the page regarding the company’s use of palm oil. The response from Nestle was personal and angry and clearly indicated that the employee handling communications on the page had taken offense. There’s much more to it than, that, but I’ll let you get all the gory Nestle Facebook crisis details yourself. I’ll just share with you a few pointers that may be helpful:

  1. Your company should have a crisis communication plan REGARDLESS of where they interact with the public.
  2. Make sure the person managing your page has some community management experience or that your company provides training. Similar to a customer service position, the person needs to be mindful of the customer relationship and respond accordingly.
  3. THINK before you respond!!! A member of the social media team at Studiocom (LOVES them!) likened it to negotiating with terrorists. Do NOT engage if the engagement is going to be an argument.
  4. Develop rules of engagement before you enter the space (another Studiocom gem). That way, removing a post, or reminding the audience to be on their best behavior and contribute constructive and not inflammatory (and unproven criticism) will just be par for the course, not a one-off angry response.
  5. Allow your community to work for you; nine times out of 10, the people who come to your page and post comments are FANS of your brand, not people that hate you. Many times, they’ll defend your brand to the dissenter for you – it’s one of the biggest values of social media engagement. Most of the people on your page love you, they really do!

Lastly, let’s look at the good. I’ve got a few social media favorites – Dunkin Donuts (FacebookTwitter), Starbucks (FacebookTwitter) and Coke (FacebookTwitter). I always joke and say the reason they are so good has nothing to do with strategy, it’s because they all are addictive products – sugar and caffeine! People NEED their fix, and they have made their social media engagements just as addictive as the actual products. How do they do it?

  1. Have exclusive offers, such as coupons for their fans to keep them engaged and give them something to thank them for being customers. Do you know how much money Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts make off additional product lines when they give you free coffee or donuts or SOMETHING, to get you into the store?
  2. They are making their page and their promotions viral, by encouraging folks to make pictures of them with products (Dunkin Donuts), their profile pics. I’m giddy just thinking about all those free impressions for their brand. And, recommendations don’t getting any stronger than that – proudly associated with your brand and wanting others to see the love – that’s SO awesome!
  3. Only Coke did this, but they actually made a page spontaneously created by two mega fans (I won’t believe you if you tell me you haven’t heard of Dusty and Michael), and made it the Official Coke page, rather than trying to work against them and create their own profile. And, it’s working – of more than 250 Coke fan pages, it’s the only one with 1MM+ fans and (don’t quote me), the second most popular page on Facebook!
  4. Use the customer input to create new products and processes to make sure they continue to love and support the brand. Dunkin Donuts (Studiocom – the love is real) hosted a contest to create a new donut. You could share this with your friends, vote on the final winner and actually GET the donut in the stores. That’s product development at its finest. And, do you know what those people who come in for the donuts buy? Additional products!! Starbucks drives processes via feedback through its social interactions, which include an ideas forum, which has driven more than 30 changes in Starbucks stores and processes.

Check it out:

Dunkin Donuts Social Media Case Study

Starbucks Social Media Case Study

Coke Social Media Case Study

There are SO many more social media case studies, good and bad. These are just a few of my faves. And, if you notice, I heavied up on the good and included only one bad. That’s intentional. One thing I’ve learned with my current job experience is that you say the worst that can happen first and provide solutions to show that you’ve put a lot of thought into mitigating those risks. Close with multiple examples of the good and let the last memories be the good ones! Trust me when I tell you it helps a lot.

Mashable has some really good social media case studies (this isn’t all of them search on the site; I’m just linking you to one that I love about Facebook), including an awesome one on the recent volcano ash crisis in Europe and how travel companies and organizations used social media to manage the crisis effectively. There’s also a Social Media Wiki with what they call the Social Media SUPERLIST – it’s 23 different lists with case studies of social media!

Don’t take my word on this as the definitive list – Google “social media case studies” yourself. There are so many new ones coming out, that the information increases and changes every day. As a matter of fact, stay tuned for one about the viral video campaign that I mentioned earlier. Until then, my friends, this is a really good start. Toodles!

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